A new study is guaranteed to turn up the heat on direct-to-consumer marketing. Published in the current New England Journal of Medicine, the study shows DTC promotions growing faster than overall drug marketing costs. DTC ad spending has leapt by 14 percent per year since 2002, to $4.2 billion. By contrast, total promotional spending is up only about 9 percent per year, to $30 billion.
Meanwhile, the FDA appears to have slacked off on regulating the ads, the study shows. The agency sent 142 warning letters about ads in 1997, versus just 22 in 2006. And, the study notes, a number of the most heavily marketed drugs were blitzed to consumers long before their safety profile emerged from regular clinical use.
Just look at Vioxx and--more recently--Avandia. The Institute of Medicine last year recommended that DTC advertising be limited in the first two years after a drug's regulatory approval to help prevent another safety crisis. Pending legislation in Congress would forego that sort of limit in favor of fines for advertising violations. One bill would allow the FDA to critique ads before they print or air, and if companies made the requested changes, they'd be cleared of liability. House and Senate versions still have to be reconciled, though, so it's anyone's guess whether new DTC regs will make it out of Washington this year.
- read the report on DTC from the Post-Gazette
Pharma racks up multibillion-dollar marketing bill. Report
AMA to study the impact of drug advertising. Report
Does the FDA do enough to regulate drug ads? Report
GAO: Improvements Needed in FDA's oversight of DTC ads. Report
10 reforms for drug advertising. Report